Diablo III in the Living Room: monstrrr power

Brandon Cackowski-Schnell and Tom Chick will be posting daily updates on Diablo III for the Xbox 360 over the coming week. This is their second entry.

Brandon: Let’s talk about Ellishandra, my wizard lady.

Tom: That’s a lovely name. I can tell Ni No Kuni has shamed you into thinking up actual fantasy names, like at a Renn Faire or in a George R. R. Malkin book.

Brandon: Diablo III picked my character’s name. I kept backing out of the name screen until I got something I liked. I rarely pick my own name.

Tom: I don’t trust Diablo III to pick my character name, because other people might think I picked it. To show that I’m above caring about fantasy lore, I named my character Arrowchick.

After the jump, can you guess what class she is?

Tom: At this point, the main value of playing Diablo III on the console — couch comfort aside — is playing characters I haven’t tried yet on the PC. So I’m a demon hunter. Named Arrowchick. How is your wizard treating you?

Brandon: I like her so far. I’m not used to playing mostly ranged characters for my action RPGs. I typically like to dual wield so I tend to go melee. She’s a bit on the fragile side, but playing on Normal Medium Average — I’ll explain in a moment — seems to keep the zombies from turning me into brain soup. A little bird told me that you tried your Demon Hunter on Normal Hard Intimidating and it didn’t work out too well. Okay, a bird didn’t tell me that. You did while we were playing.

Tom: The difficulty levels in the living room version of Diablo III are killing me. Literally! Get it? Because I’m literally dying. I don’t remember having this much trouble on the PC version, where I’d crank up the monster power and go to loot town. Maybe it’s because demon hunters are such frail creatures. I’ve been a barbarian for so long that I’m not used to moving away from monsters. My muscle memory moves me in the opposite direction.

Brandon: One thing I’m not used to is the fact that I’m a magic user but only some of my skills use arcane power. I’m used to magic costing mana and that’s it. Here, some of my magic uses arcane power and some of it uses, I don’t know, good intentions? I was worried that I’d have to keep a constant eye on my arcane globe to make sure I wasn’t shooting blanks, but not so. I can spam magic missile as much as I want. Cast it at zombies, cast it at quill beasts, cast it at the darkness, whatever.

Tom: Welcome to the foundation for what will eventually be your wizard’s character build: the difference between free spells and mana spells. All the characters have a similar dynamic, and if you only pick spells for their designated slots rather than turning on elective mode, you can’t really gimp yourself. Just go with it for now.

Brandon: The side effect to this is that I don’t spend nearly as much time looking at my arcane globe as I should. So when I do bust out my awesome Iceman style freeze ray, I tend to keep pulling the trigger until the clip’s empty. Clearly I need to find the right balance.

Tom: There’s also an interface issue here. On the PC, things like health and mana — or arcane power, in your case — are represented with highly visible globes. On the console version, you don’t get a globe for your health. You get a yucky old hit point bar. How retro. Maybe that’s why I’m dying so much! Because the hit point bar doesn’t catch the eye as much. Of course, there’s also the point of pride in that I’m pushing the difficulty level to level faster. I don’t think it’s working.

Brandon: Speaking of difficulty level, it turns out they don’t call monster power monster power. Instead they make it even more complicated. They have all of the usual Diablo difficulty levels but then within those difficulties they have Easy, Medium and Hard. So right now I’m playing on Normal Medium. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect if I dropped down to Normal Easy or up to Normal Hard. Diablo III has no time to explain things. The whole thing reminds me of when review sites give a game an 8.1 as if the reader is supposed to know what one tenth of a score difference is.

Tom: It’s actually worse than that. You’ll shortly unlock the tiers above easy, medium, and hard, which are master I through master V. That’s eight different levels, but there were eleven monster power levels on the PC (zero through ten). I’m not sure what happened to the other three. Maybe the Xbox 360 didn’t have enough memory. Furthermore, the text for the master levels clearly indicates that you’re getting more experience points and loot. Easy, medium, and hard are mum on this topic. I’m assuming Blizzard doesn’t want to bother console players with the sorts of detailed charts PC gamers referenced online.

Brandon: Now that you’ve had some time on Normal Medium, do you see yourself bumping things back up or will you need to change classes before you try that out?

Tom: I probably won’t change classes. I’m enjoying this, but it’s not going to displace Diablo III on the PC, which is where I’ll go to keep leveling up my other classes. As for bumping up the difficulty level, that’s something I might try as I get further into the game. But right now, I can hardly handle hard, much less any of the five master difficulties. I would think a 15th level demon hunter playing on normal (as opposed to inferno, hell, or nightmare) could fold in a little extra monster power. But not me. I occasionally get ambitious, but I constantly have to reset myself to normal. I guess I’ll just level at the normal rate for a while.

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